Sermons 2003-2004

Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004
Home | Christmas Eve A, "Are we really ready?", Luke 2: 1-20, 24 December 2004 | "Finally! Well, almost...." Advent 4A , 19 December 2004, Matthew 1:18-25 | Faith and Doubts, Advent 3A, 12 December 2004, Matthew 11:2-11 | John the Baptist, Advent 2A, 5 December 2004, Matthew 3:1-12 | Left Behind? Advent 1A, 28 Nov 2004, Matthew 24:37-44 | Some King of kings! Proper 29C, 21 November 2004, Luke 23:35-43 | "Not one thrown down", Proper 28C, 14 November 2004, Luke 21:5-19 | All Saints and for all the saints, 2004C, 31 October 2004, Luke 6:20-36 | The Lambeth Commission Windsor Report, the Pharisee, and the tax collector, Proper 25C, 24 Oct 2004 | "Lord, teach us to pray." Proper 20C, 17 October 2004, Genesis 32:3-8, 22-30; Luke 18:1-8a | "It's all in the choosing", Proper 23C, 10 October 2004, Ruth 1:1-19a; Luke 17:11-19 | "Increase our faith", Proper 22C, Luke 17:5-10, 3 October 2004 | Proper 21C 2004, 26 September 2004, "R&R: Response and Relationships", Luke 16:19-31 | Proper 19C 2004, 12 September 2004, "Lost and Found", Luke 15:1-10 | Proper 18C 2004, 5 September 2004, "Preaching or Meddling", Luke 14:25-33 | Proper 16C 2004, 22 August 2004, "The Narrow Gate ", Luke 13:22-30 | Proper 15C, 15 August 2004 | Proper 14C, 8 August 2004 | Proper 13C, 1 August 2004 | Shrinemont: "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", Proper 15c, 15 August 2004 | "Lord, teach us how to pray," Proper 12C, 25 July 2004, Genesis 18:20-33; Luke 11:1-13 | The Summary of the Law and the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise" Luke 10:25-37, 11 July 2004 | Independence Day 2004. "The Creative Tension of the Church: Who is to be included?" | "Now! Now! Now!", Proper 8C, 27 June 2004, Luke 9:51-62 | "Star Throwers", Proper 7C, 20 June 2004, Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24 | The more things change the more they remain the same, Pentecost 2C, 13 June 2004 | "O Holy Triune God, most Holy Trinity; here are we. Send us." Trinity C, 6 June 2004 | "Come, Holy Spirit", Pentecost C , 30 May 2004 | "That they all may be one", Easter 7C, 23 May 2004 | The Holy Spirit: Paraclete, Pneuma, Ruach, Easter 6C 2004 | Agapate Allelous: Love beyond each other, Easter 5C 2004, 9 May 2004 | The Good Shepherd and the five people you meet in heaven, Easter 4C 2004 | "The God of the Second Chance -- and of many chances", Easter 3C, 25 April 2004 | Baptizatus Sum: I am baptized, Easter 2C 2004 | It is NOT an Idle Tale: Easter Sunday, 18 April 2004 | Palm Sunday-Passion Sunday Roller Coaster: What We Want or What We Need? | Who are the Wicked Tenants, Lent 5C 2004 | The Prodigal Son -- and so much more | God, the Gardener, and the Fig Tree | "The Hen and the Fox", Lent 2C | The Comfortable Rut of Ordinary Temptation | "Getting from Uh-oh to Aha", Luke 9:28-36, Epiphany Last C, 22 February 2004 | Jesus, Jeremiah, and the Beatitudes: What to Make of it All | The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon: God working in the world | Jesus, the Archbishop, and Annual Council The Dark Abyss of Schism | The Nature of Revelation: Jesus' Sermon at Nazareth | The Miracle at the Wedding in Cana | The King of kings and the Lion King | "The Magnificat, Watching, and Waiting" | "Gaudete in Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always" | A Voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord." | "Standing in the Day of Battle: Isabel and the Gospel" | Dogma, Doctrine, and the Theological Enterprise | The Little Apocalypse | Jesus and theWidow's Mite | One Priest's Response to the Election of Gene Robinson | The Great Commandment: Jesus Meant What He said | Who is blind? | Eyes on Jesus and minds on mission! | Tradition or Traditionalism? | Credo: Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." | Who do YOU say that I am? | "It's about Power and Winning" | Contact Wicomico Parish Church

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Proper 15 C 2004 Hebrews 12:1-14; Luke 12:49-56

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross….

“Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses comes very close to describing what was observed and felt during our session earlier this week at Shrine Mont. Shrine Mont, a place set apart for rest, devotion, fellowship, learning, and education, where all may grow in the grace of God. Shrinemont -- a place set apart for recreation – and re-creation.

Shrine Mont is a place where people are more important than things, where prayer and reflection, rest and recreation are more important than appointments and tasks. It’s a place where people give thanks to God for his creation -- from the beauty of the streams, flowers and wildlife which are at home here, to the people who come to this place set apart to celebrate being part of the family of God. (1)

It was interesting to read the two creation stories from Genesis as part of our morning worship in the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration. More than interesting as we sat in that open air cathedral on the mountainside surrounded on two sides by forest and on the other sides by the cabins and houses of old Shrine Mont, and heard the great Creation stories and gospel lections from Luke and Matthew, the first on the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, the second on being like little children and the third on the Great Commission. It all seemed to fit so well surrounded as we were by so great a cloud of witnesses in heaven – to which we felt especially close – and on earth.

For me personally it was wonderful to celebrate Holy Communion in this lovely place. I had never been the celebrant in a Cathedral before. And the Cathedral Shrine of the Diocese of Virginia is a very special place. It was built before Shrine Mont itself was established. Completed in 1925 using local labor it was consecrated as the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration on August 6, 1925 – the day of the Feast of the Transfiguration. An 51 year old priest, a one legged man who was lame, and his 16 year old son who seemed to have hookworm anemia had dug the foundation the year before. From foundation to cross on top of the high bell tower, and including altar, lectern, and pulpit, the Cathedral Shrine was built of the native stones lying about on the mountainside on which it was built. (2)

Speaking of a great cloud of witnesses, the Cathedral Shrine is the where the closing event of Saint George’s Camp takes place. For those who worry about the future of the Church, this event alone is enough to bear witness to the future health of the Church. I have been at two of them – some years ago when Randall McNees finished his first year there. And the second time was Tuesday morning. It was a great cloud of witnesses of young people singing and praying, as they introduced themselves – yes, every one of the Saint George campers, cabin by cabin. And then celebrated Holy Communion. They themselves were surrounded by parents and friends – standing room only.

It was a powerful and holy moment each time I have witnessed this event to see young people who will be the future leadership of the Church when most of us here at Wicomico Parish lay down our share of the burden. We and the Church will be in good hands. They are bright, devout, full of energy and growing wisdom.

We worshiped our Lord in the Cathedral Shrine every morning we were there, right after breakfast at nine o’clock. On a plaque nailed to a tree at the rear of the Cathedral Shrine was written this: “The ground whereon thou standest is holy ground” – God’s announcement to Moses from the burning bush. I have always felt that Shrine Mont is holy ground especially the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration, a place where I have spent many hours in quiet and joyful contemplation and meditation.

As we said our last Morning Prayer on Thursday morning, the Saint George’s camp councilors gathered in the rainy weather chapel behind the cathedral. The chapel windows were open and they sang almost the whole time we were worshipping. It was like having our own private angelic chorus, singing in the background, providing choral counter point to the stateliness of the spoken Morning Prayer. We really didn’t want to leave after the last Amen.

The priest who helped dig the foundations was the Reverend Dr. Edmund Lee Woodward, also a medical doctor who had been a missionary to China until 1914. He oversaw the entire construction of the Cathedral Shrine. About the Shrine Dr. Woodward later wrote: “Here, if anywhere, ‘earth’s crammed with heaven’ and the Imminent Spirit of God, to the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and the understanding heart, sleeps in the mossy stones, dreams in the woodland creatures, and awakens in the worshipping children of men. Here rises in one majestic harmony the Benedicite of all Creation, O all ye works of the Lord, Bless ye the Lord, Praise him and Magnify Him forever.” (3)

It is still that way. Dr. Woodward’s vision extended beyond the Cathedral Shrine. The Shrine, as he saw it, was a place where men could reach out to God and where God would touch the hearts of men and send them back, down into the world, refreshed, restored, and inspired to work His works and bear witness to his redeeming power.

Two mighty Acts of God, related in Holy Scripture, the account of the Transfiguration, where our Lord's Divine Nature was revealed to chosen witnesses in startling glory, and the account of Pentecost (Whitsunday), where the assembled waiting Church was empowered of the Spirit to go forth boldly into a sinful world, and manifest before men the forgiving, sanctifying, and saving power of Christ. The first, the Transfiguration, produced the Shrine; the second, the power of Pentecost, would be continued, God willing, in establishing Shrine Mont itself.

In 1928 Shrine Mont was established as an institution, consisting of the Cathedral Shrine, a kitchen and refectory dining room, a swimming pool, and five cottages. The next year four more cottages were added plus over a hundred acres, which allowed Dr. Woodward to erect Saint George’s Cross on the crest of what was now named Shrine Mont Mountain and accommodate one hundred people over night. In September 1929 Dr. Woodward deeded Shrine Mont to the Trustees of the Diocesan Missionary Society to hold title for the Diocese. (4)

I first went to Shrine Mont in the late Spring of 1975 to present myself before BACAM, the Bishops’ advisory Committee on Aspirants for the Ministry. Snow was still on the ground but early crocuses were pushing their heads through the crust. I recognized how special a place it was from the beginning. It was then I first saw the Shrine, then only fifty years old – it is now almost eighty years old. Derspite the fact that the then Bishop of Virginia told me to finish my Army career and come back to him later, which I did, Shrine Mont remains a special place – a piece of holy ground – in my heart. My heart always rises to meet them as the mountains rise up from the horizon on my way there.

But I want to tell you that the most special time so far was last week when we gathered, ten adults, one teenager, and three children, for Bible School and for the restorative power of Shrine Mont itself. We were all involved in Bible School beginning with our morning worship all together, then various activities during the morning, much art work, swimming, mountain climbing, and hiking. We all drove to Jerome where we stood on the grounds of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, on a hill in a valley surrounded by ranges of mountains in serried array. The younger children played on the play ground there and did some art work; the rest of us helped with them or did our own art work depicting the glory of that small part of God’s creation.

The late afternoon and evening gathering on the porch and front lawn of one of our two cottages allowed those of us who had come to Shrine Mont to engage in fellowship and long conversations. We drew closer together as the place spun its spell around us. We have reserved time for the second week in August next year. Y’all come.

The deeds for Shrine Mont say this:

Shrine Mont: "A Place Apart-for Rest, Devotion, and Fellowship, for the fulfillment of the following PURPOSE:
"To voice the Master's Call: 'Come ye apart and rest awhile,' To establish at the Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration an Enduring Fellowship: a place of charm on a Mount of Vision, of communing about the deep things of God, the more abundant life, the more fruitful ministry, and the Unity and Mission of the Church; a place hallowed in the fellowship of the Saints, whence chosen witnesses, delivered from the disquietude of this world, 'May Behold the King in His Beauty'."
_"And the property shall be held in Trust, in perpetuity, for the purpose aforesaid." (5)
So great a cloud of witnesses. Come and see.


2. George J. Cleaveland, The Cathedral Shrine of the Transfiguration and Shrinemont, printed at Shenandoah Publishing House, n.c., n.d., p. 34.
3. Ibid., p. 44
4. Ibid., pp. 45-47.
5. Ibid., p. vi.

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